Critters in the Mist
"Dude, what is *up* with this fog?"
Dean stared at the window, squinting into the pea soup rolling their way. It had come up from out of nowhere, encompassing the Impala in a matter of seconds and now Dean couldn't see two feet beyond his baby's nose. He could barely make out the hood itself, the black metal glinting vaguely darker than the fog above it.
Beside him Sam fidgeted lightly, his fingers tapping against the bony, denim hill of one upraised knee. At six foot three the younger Winchester couldn't fidget much, but it looked like he wanted to. Staring out at the whiteout beyond the glass window, Sam was frowning, his eyes narrowed in concern. "I don't know."
"Dude, what?" Dean huffed in annoyance. That frown on Sammy might not mean anything at all - or it might mean psychic!boy was honing in on a band of demons hovering around for the chance to cackle over their corpses. Either way, Dean firmly squelched down his own sudden bad feeling about this in favor of watching Sammy jump. Yeah, that never got old.
"Huh? Nothing. I just...I don't like this. I think we should turn around."
"You sensing anything?" Dean asked.
The pause that preceded the negative shake of Sam's shaggy brown head didn't exactly fill him with warm fuzzies. "No. Nothing."
And suddenly that Very Bad Feeling ratcheted up a notch at the clear unease in Sam's eyes as they each turned to assess the other. Yeah. Time to go.
"You feel it, too. Don't you?" Sam asked and as much as Dean didn't want to admit it, this was just a little too creepy even for him.
"Yeah." But since pulling a U-y in the middle of a major highway wasn't a real bright idea in the best of conditions, he wasn't all that sure turning around was an option at the moment. They would have to wait and hope they hit a gas station or something a little further on. "Next gas station you see, shout out," Dean told him grimly.
//Two point four miles on your right.// Tal told them instantly. //And you need not worry about running into anything before then; I have been keeping watch.//
Well that certainly took a load off his mind. Not wanting to run into something still on the road was the reason they were only going a zippy 30 miles per hour. "Your scanners work in this soup?"
//Not at optimal range,// the Autobot admitted, //but they are adequate. For the moment.//
For the moment. Now *that* sounded ominous. In two miles they were going to pull into that gas station and figure out just what the hell was going on in Maine.
Because, somehow Dean didn't think this added bit of weirdness had anything to do with their vampire nest...
"So..." Dean looked at the lone gas station attendant like he had gone out of his mind. Or had had one case too many.
Trying not to be too obvious as he looked at the empty cans of Bud scattered around the little convenience store attached to the garage, Dean privately thought that was it. Because no way was any of this crap true. "You're tellin' me the military guys up on top of the mountain let loose a bunch of inter-dimensional alien bugs and sent them down to snack on the town? Really?"
"It's true, I swear!" The old codger looked between Dean and Sam in desperation. "The fog - that brought'em in! I seen an entire mile of them trucks go flying by just before the fog hit. And when Grady and Dave tried to make it back to their car - "
Wide eyes turned to stare past the large plate of glass that announced the backwards curve of 'Manny's Garage' in faded red letters and Dean found himself looking out with him. Whatever happened, and Dean still wasn't sure if it had anything to do with the strange opalescent fog or not, it was clear that *something* at least had happened. Piss-drunk or not, sane men didn't stare out into space as if haunted by what they couldn't see.
Offering the elderly man a hand back to his chair, Sam traded a look with his brother and Dean nodded once. It might be a hunt, it might not but, vampires or not, clearly something was happening in this fog. Watching as his brother loomed over the frail mechanic, Dean moved away to check on Tal. He wished they had parked a little closer to the door now, but there had been the obligatory tow truck and a couple of junkers in the way. After hearing about the unfortunate Grady and Dave, Dean wasn't so sure at least one of those cars might not belong to one of them...
Dean took a quick peek over at the counter just as Manny dropped heavily into the swivel chair behind the register, wincing at the harsh screech as the old metal frame took the sudden weight. With more rust showing than peeling paint, as old and rickety as that thing was, Dean was privately convinced the man was lucky it hadn't dumped him back on his ass.
But then, ever since finding out the Impala was actually a 30 foot tall robot from another planet, Dean liked to think he had gained a greater appreciation for most things mechanical. And speaking of Metallicar...
...it was a good thing the hunters had worked out a communication system with the Autobot in advance, because somehow he really didn't feel a stroll across the parking lot coming on.
When the brothers were out of human audio range, Tal would use a simple yes/no system unless Morse code was required. And unless otherwise requested (it was hell trying to make love with a nosy metal alien eavesdropping on your every move - so to speak), he was always listening in...
Ducking his head into his jacket, Dean spoke quietly. "Hey, Tal -anything on those sensors of yours?"
One blink of the headlights. No then. Huh. Alright, on to plan B...
"Ok keep an eye out, will you? Something tells me there's a reason this guy up and decided to get shit faced on a vanilla Tuesday afternoon."
Well that was one front covered. Turning back to the store, he saw Sammy handing the old man a bottle of water.
"Sir, is there anything else you can tell us?" Sam asked him gently. "Anything that might tell us what we're up against?"
Eying the water with contempt, he nevertheless took a grateful sip before shaking his head. "Nothing. All I know is that two of my friends are dead and the fog is what killed them."
"What about phones? Are there any phones still working? Maybe we could call someone further down the mountain - "
"Don't you think I thought of that, boy?" he snapped. "Ain't no phones, no radio and no one left, I tell you!"
"Hey!" Dean barked, stalking over to the counter to give the guy the evil eye. "We're *trying* to help you. So what's say we cut the attitude and think," he demanded. "Who else might still be alive out there?"
And Jesus he was *not* acting like this guy was right. Military project Arrowheads, alternate dimensions, giant alien bugs - just no way.
The glare thrown in the shorter hunter's direction was followed by a reluctant admittance of, "There's the strip mall just down the street. Pharmacy, grocery store. That's about it."
"Alright - so that's our first target," Dean stated firmly. "Get to the supermarket and see if anyone else is alive - and if they happen to have a working phone, that's a bonus." Unspoken was the fact they would be getting a few weapons from the trunk, just in case.
Plan set, both Winchesters headed for the door only Manny didn't follow. Turning back, they found him rooted to that same spot, looking at the both of them like they had lost their minds.
"Have you lost your minds? I told you there's something in that fog that's killin' people!"
"Look, our car is just outside this door," Sam persuaded the older man gently. "Once inside, you'll be safe, I promise."
Manny just snorted and sat back down on his chair with a decisive thump and a renewed protest of metal. His arms crossed defiantly over his chest, the whiskered chin raised stubbornly. It was clear the man was firmly set and going nowhere. "I don't care if you boys have a tank out there - I ain't settin' one foot outside this place until that fog is gone."
"So - what? You're just going to sit here, drink beer and chow down on Baby Ruths until whatever's out there gets bored and decides to invite itself in?" Dean snorted. "Because I gotta tell you - all this glass doesn't exactly scream 'safe' and 'sound' to me."
"Sir, my brother's right. Ta - the Impala is a '67, all sheet metal and iron. You'll be safer there."
"Just outside the door you say?" The man questioned suspiciously.
"What about the tow? And the other cars? Between your car and us, ain't they?"
Sam paused for a moment, trying to work through the accusation. "Well...*yes*, but - "
"Then your precious Impala is at the other end of the parking lot and too damned far for me to venture through this fog." The thin mouth tightened and the arms stayed folded protectively across his chest. "I ain't goin'."
Dean had had enough. There was nothing between the station and the Impala but a freakishly thick fog. No demons, no monsters, no friends-stealing bogeymen, nothing but an old man's drunken imagination. "You know what? Fine. You stay here and -"
But Dean was just getting started. The old man had given Sammy nothing but grief since they walked in. Let him stay here if that's what he wanted. Probably would until the beer ran out and then he would pick himself up and stroll down to that same grocery store like it wasn't nothing. "I'm not finished..."
Dean ignored the hand bumping his shoulder. Sammy was always the peacemaker, but this was ridiculous. "Sammy, if the man wants to stay there's nothing we can - whoa!" The rest was cut off by the loud thump of something soft hitting against the dirty glass of the shop, startling Dean into jumping back a couple of feet to face the source of the noise.
Namely a tentacle bumping against the front glass, sliding up and running over the faded red lettering.
"Holy!" He took another instinctive step back when another joined the first, the pair writhing along the smooth glass, leaving a slimy trail of goo in their wake.
When one opened up about eye-level, showing off a mouth with razor sharp teeth that gleamed like black obsidian pressed against the glass, Dean was suddenly sure he didn't want to go for a stroll out that door right at the moment, either. Staring in wide-eyed horror at the groping things, Dean had the totally inappropriate thought that he would never be able to look at tentacle porn the same way again. Fang-filled mouths aside, those things were huge; thicker around than his wrist and getting thicker the further away from the blunt tip they traveled.
Sam may be the freak in the family, but still...
Equally wide-eyed beside him, Sam refused to take his attention off the window. "What do we do?"
Forcing his brain to unstick, Dean shook himself free of the shock to plan. Tal. They needed to get to Tal. "Weapons," he stated firmly, hoping like hell he sounded a lot more confident than he felt. He just hoped he wasn't about to disgrace himself when his knees gave out on the mad dash that it would probably take to reach the car. "We need the weapons from the trunk."
Beside him Sam licked his lips and followed his lead. "What are you thinking?"
Shrugging, Dean ventured hopefully, "Flamethrower?"
"Huh." Favoring him with a wan smile, Sam countered, "Dad took it to fend off that Wendigo in the Rockies. We have a couple of machetes. Maybe."
"What, no hand grenades?"
"I wish. A couple of road flares, though."
Dean nodded. "Shotgun. And extra shells..."
Sam stared at the things - at the tentacles - flopping over the dirty glass and frowned thoughtfully. It looked to him as if they were getting a little purpose not to mention force behind the blunt strikes. "Do you think - "
"Well, I was thinking - maybe Tal could meet us at the door. I mean, this guy..." Sam shrugged.
"Yeah good point." Dean huffed. Shrugging philosophically, he admitted, "After tentacle monster fog, what's a 30 foot robot?"
"Get ready." Dean warned before facing the glass to address the Autobot. "Tal! Did you get all that? Swing around to the front door and pop the trunk. We're going to need as many weapons as we can grab before those things get in here."
For a tense couple of moments nothing happened, and then there was a roar of an engine Dean would have known in his sleep and a squeal of tires as the tentacles retreated in alarm. Only it wasn't alarm - as the Impala came charging up to the door, executing a last minute spin that backed the trunk within reach of the quickly opened door, they immediately began reaching for the car. Keeping the door open with a shoulder, Dean winced at the slimy trails they left across his car. God only knew what that crap was doing to the paint job...
//Dean, you must hurry - there is - LOOK OUT!//
Dean grunted as he and Sam were shoved unceremoniously aside as Tal transformed, catching two of the striking tentacles in sudden metal hands before they could attack them. Rolling back up, Dean grabbed the shotgun and Sam's arm, pulling them both back into the deceptive safety of the shop. Deceptive because whatever those damned things were attached to just tore off the roof.
"Aw man - are you fucking *kidding* me?"
Staring up into the fog in disbelief at the creature Tal was fighting, Dean forgot all about the tentacles, the gun in his hand and Manny the mechanic frozen in the corner. There was a gigantic praying mantis beating on his robot car!
Oh *Hell* no.
Broken out of his shock by the tortured screech of metal, Dean cursed angrily and started loading the shotgun in his hands.
"Is it just me, or are you having flashbacks to the Power Rangers?" Sam muttered beside him, hands busy loading consecrated rounds into the revolver and incendiary flares into the flare gun.
"Huh. Nope - just you, Pink Ranger."
"Definitely later. Right now we have some alternate reality monster ass to kick."
"Alternate dimension, not reality."
"Sam? The bastard is wailing on my car - I don't care where the hell it's from."
"I was just saying - "
Running out into the fog, Dean stopped, aimed and fired, taking out a tentacle trying to slither around Tal's leg. Which reminded him...
Sam turned and fired the flare gun; the white-hot flare lighting up the thick fog in a wash of pink, distracting the praying mantis monster and allowing Tal to get the upper hand for the moment. Braced against his brother's back, Sam quickly reloaded with another flare, looking for another target. "What?"
"Oh nothin'. I was just wondering - how do you feel about tentacle porn?"